Argentine-bred Miss Terrible returned from nearly a 19-month layoff to capture the $109,600 Las Flores Handicap (gr. III), giving horse-shoer-turned-trainer Bradley Ross his first victory Sunday at Santa Anita.
A multiple group I winner on both turf and dirt in Argentina, Miss Terrible came to the United States with great expectations, but had failed to last in either of her previous turf starts in North America. She was the first starter for Ross, 52, of Chicago, who said he has shod horses for 33 years.
"She and I just really connected," Ross said. "I decided we had to get it done. This horse is a once in a lifetime deal. I wanted to show people in this country how great she is."
Sunday, sent off at odds of 11-1, the 6-year-old mare by Numerous took back off a blazing pace set by 6-5 favorite Papa to Kinzie. But she came on in the lane for jockey Alex Solis, splitting rivals in deep stretch under heavy urging to gamely hold off a hard-closing Puxa Saco by a half-length. The final time was 1:09 2/5 for the six-furlong event for older fillies and mares.
Mazella finished third with Quero Quero fourth. Papa to Kinzie faded out of contention and 2-1 second choice Victory U.S.A. had no late burst after chasing the pace through the turn.
Starting on the extreme outside in the field of eight, Papa to Kinzie stumbled coming out of the gate but rushed up to lead for jockey Patrick Valenzuela, setting a blazing pace of :20 4/5 and :43 3/5 while pulling off to a four-length lead near the three-eighths pole. The lead steadily dwindled through the turn and Mazella and Jon Court had taken over by the eighth pole, completing five furlongs in :56 2/5.
Any one of four could have gotten the job done in the final eighth, but it was Miss Terrible who showed her class, holding Puxa Saco and Mike Smith off in deep stretch.
Miss Terrible won seven consecutive grade I races in Argentina before transferring to the United States with Bobby Frankel. In her U.S. debut, she ran fourth after setting the pace, two lengths behind winner Tates Creek in the Gamely Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IT) in May 2003. Her next start, for trainer Wesley Ward in a classified allowance race more than three months later on a yielding course at Saratoga, was a disaster. She faded to finish sixth of seven as the 3-5 choice, beaten 16 3/4 lengths.
Owned by Carol and Charles Hammersmith of Elburn, Ill., Miss Terrible has now won nine of 12 lifetime starts with earnings of $153,517.
She had a solid work tab for her return at Santa Anita for Ross, who said that he also broke, bred, and rode jumpers and western show horses.
Ross said he would look at the March 12 Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita for Miss Terrible's next race.
Miss Terrible paid $24.40, $9.40 and $6. Puxa Saco returned $6.20 and $5, completing a $167.80 exacta. Mazella was $7.20 to show.
After Quero Quero came Victory U.S.A., who carried high weight of 120 pounds, Papa to Kinzie, Liz on Polk Street, and Delizia. Run Rebecca Run and Minnie the Moocher scratched.